Margaret Thatcher: a Life and Legacy

by David Cannadine, OUP, £10.99

For those who haven’t the time to read Charles Moore’s official biography of Margaret Thatcher (two volumes published and a third in the pipeline), this book has much to recommend it. It is short, judicious and lucid, neither leaning too heavily on the side of Thatcher’s admirers nor her critics, yet still conveying a sympathetic personal view.

David Cannadine, general editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and professor of history at Princeton University, wrote the original Oxford DNB entry on Thatcher and then, given the entry’s length and the importance of his subject, prepared it as a book.

The epigraph he has chosen, a portentous quote from Thatcher herself – “The full accounting of how my political work affected the lives of others is something we will only know on Judgment Day” – seems gently ironic. Historians working in this world need to make certain assessments in the meantime.

Something else worth drawing attention to is the author’s dedication to “Mrs Thurman”, his primary school headmistress. He describes her with obvious affection and respect, as “Margaret Thatcher’s avatar and anticipation”, for her immaculate coiffure, her energy, her brilliance, her high standards and her determination. Having met Thatcher’s “type” already, Cannadine is not unfamiliar with her stance or behaviour.

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